Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Iraqi Style Eggplant Stew - Morgat Bathenjan

Eggplant is the only vegetable I refused to eat as a child!  I tried many times, but it made me ill.  Luckily, my parents never forced me to eat it since I ate liver, okra, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and just about everything else.  If my mother made Eggplant Parmesan, then I would simply eat around it.  It was odd really because my sister LOVED eggplant and she was always more than happy to eat my serving.  Ironically enough, I enjoy Baba Ghnough which is a roasted eggplant dip.

Over the years I have found a few varieties of eggplant that I enjoyed like Thai and Chinese.  Last summer, I realized that I was allergic to the classic variety of eggplant. My Farmers Market friend Mr. Haley, gave me 2 eggplants that he did not sell.  I decided to make Baba Ghnough since it was the only eggplant dish that I enjoyed.  I cut and and prepared the eggplants and noticed my hands began to itch.  I went on to roast and then prepare my dip.  After eating a couple of spoonfuls I realized that my throat and body were begin to itch. I guess I was a pretty smart kid - apparently I'm allergic to classic eggplant.
None the less, I've now found Japanese eggplant that I very much enjoy.  A few weeks ago, I was hired to cook for a client and her husband for their Anniversary Dinner.  We decided that an Iraqi feast would be a fun dinner.  Here was the menu:

Jajeek Dip - Yogurt, cucumber, garlic and sumac
Shiraz Salad - Cucumber, Tomatoes, Onions and Feta
Entree: Eggplant Stew served with Basmati Rice
Dessert:  Cardamom Ice Cream with Toasted Pistachios

Here is my recipe for the Eggplant Stew - Morgat Bathenjan


1 large eggplant, sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
1/4 cup olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 (1lb) lamb shanks or lamb stew
fresh ground pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 large white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic- crushed
1 large can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons baharat
2 teaspoons ground coriander


If you are using traditional eggplant then you will need to do the following: In a bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoons of salt in a 1 quart of water.  Add the eggplant, cover with a plate to keep the slices under water, soak for 30 minutes. Drain the eggplant and pat dry.

In a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pot, heat 2 Tbl of the oil. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, turning once until well browned, about 5 minutes per side. Add the onion and garlic.  Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until softened about 10 minutes. Add 1 quart of water, can of tomato sauce, tomato paste, turmeric, baharat, salt and coriander and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes stirring and skimming every so often.  

In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 1/2 Tbl of the oil. Add 1/3 of the eggplant and cook over med-high heat until browned, 3 minutes per side; transfer to paper towels to drain. Brown the remaining eggplant in the 3 Tbl of oil. Add the eggplant to the lamb and simmer over low heat, stirring until the lamb is tender, 45 minutes.

Transfer the lamb to a rimmed baking sheet, remove the meat from the bones and cut into 1-inch chunks. Boil the stew over high heat, skimming, until the liquid has reduced to 3 cups, about 40 minutes. Return the lamb to the stew and season with salt and pepper. 

You may serve the stew with toasted pita bread or basmati rice.

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